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Stronger Together: English Learners

Part of Stronger Together: A Guidebook for the Safe Reopening of California's Public Schools. Created through the Reopening Schools Task Force that fostered a collaborative process for educators and stakeholders to lend their important voices.

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School closures will have an increased impact on learning acceleration for the 1.1 million English learners enrolled in California public schools. When schools reopen— whether it is via distance learning, physical attendance, or a blended model—it is important that LEAs continue to ensure the goal of English learners acquiring fluent English proficiency as rapidly and effectively as possible is attained.

Our English learners, like all our students, have had a disruption of their daily lives, have worries about their own families, and have experienced high stress situations. These students will need additional supports to rebalance and refocus on the task of learning and being productive in the school community. The goal remains for English learners to achieve the same rigorous grade-level academic standards that are expected of all students, within a reasonable period of time. To accomplish these goals, all English learners must receive a comprehensive program of designated and integrated English language development (ELD) instruction targeted to their proficiency level, and appropriate academic instruction in a language acquisition program (5 CCR Section 11309[c][1]).

The California English Learner Roadmap Policy

The Educational Programs and Services for English Learners (EL Roadmap Policy) sets the direction for educating English learners in California. The EL Roadmap Policy provides LEAs with four guiding principles to support and embrace the English learners they serve:

  • Principle One: Assets-Oriented and Needs-Responsive Schools
  • Principle Two: Intellectual Quality of Instruction and Meaningful Access
  • Principle Three: System Conditions That Support Effectiveness
  • Principle Four: Alignment and Articulation Within and Across Systems

These principles should continue to guide LEAs in implementing instructional programs for English learners during distance learning and the transition to reopening schools. This includes ensuring that LEAs support English learners’ social–emotional well-being. LEAs should ensure that they embrace English learners as the assets they are while also providing them with the support they need to succeed. The same is true for English learner students with disabilities. For dually identified students, a knowledgeable educator should be involved in planning distance learning needs for students with an individualized education program (IEP). The Practitioners’ Guide for Educating English Learners with Disabilities is available on the CDE Special Education Announcements & Current Issues web page.

If an LEA is providing remote learning for its students, the LEA must provide language instruction services to English learners. LEAs must continue to provide designated and integrated ELD and have the flexibility to determine how services will be provided to English learners. The LEA can determine where, when, and what students receive in order to continue to make progress toward English language proficiency to meet grade-level academic achievement. Under state and federal law, there is no required amount of time that must be allocated to English language services. LEAs do have a dual obligation to provide English learners a program designed to overcome language barriers, to address any deficits incurred while learning English. These services may be provided virtually, online, or via telephone.

California schools have over 700 language acquisition programs where students are learning in two languages through dual language or bilingual models, and those should continue to be implemented through the use of technology and support from LEAs that are effectively providing the services. While LEAs may not be able to provide services in the way they normally would during this national emergency, LEAs must make every attempt to continue to provide these services.

As we return to schools, it will be critical to leverage the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) concentration funds, supplemental federal Title I, Title III, and federal flexibilities on programs and supports to accelerate learning. Engaging parents and the community in this acceleration can be done with a parent liaison who facilitates family engagement. Using these resources helps ensure equipment, internet connectivity, access to the necessary materials, and professional development for teachers of English learners. Title III funds can support dual enrollment for students to be able to complete the A–G requirements or obtain college credit. School closures and the reopening process may also impact reclassification. If an LEA was not able to administer the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC) to all students during the 2019–20 school year due to school closures, the LEA should follow the most recent guidance provided by the CDE: LEAs may not exit an English learner from EL status unless the student has demonstrated proficiency (level 4) on the ELPAC.

Schools should closely monitor English learners and students who were reclassified as fluent English proficient to evaluate whether students need additional services. An English learners’ English proficiency level may have decreased because the student has experienced limited instruction for an extended time during school closures. Therefore, close monitoring is key to ensure that English learners have the opportunity to recover any academic losses incurred during school closures.

Collaboration is key to supporting English learners during distance learning and throughout the transition to reopening schools. Consider practices such as remote instruction, telephone calls, meetings held on digital platforms, online options for data tracking, and documentation of services, supports, and accommodations provided.

In addition, an LEA might consider non-technology-based strategies, such as providing instructional packets or assigning projects and written assignments to English learners. In addition to collaborating with classroom teachers and school, district, and county educators, engaging the parents of English learners remains important during distance learning and school reopening. LEAs have an obligation to ensure meaningful communication with parents of English learners in a language they can understand and to adequately notify parents of the same information about any program, service, or activity that is shared with parents of students who are not classified as English learners. LEAs should translate all mailings and emails to parents to provide access to the information in a language they understand. For parents who are not literate, LEAs may use recorded telephone calls that go to families that include the option to select a language in which to hear the message. Working with parents and offering them the opportunity to be involved in their children’s education is key to the students’ success at all times, especially during distance learning and the transition to reopening.

Essential Questions That LEAs Need to Consider

  • How will designated and integrated ELD be provided?
  • How will we support English learners with oral language development?
  • How will we engage English learners’ families and ensure they receive information and convey information in a language they understand?
  • How will we ensure that the social–emotional and physical health needs of English learners are addressed?
  • How will we ensure that English learners have the tools needed to engage in the curriculum, including access to technology as well as access to books or assignment packets?
  • How will we track English learners’ progress and ensure that all current English learners and reclassified students make progress?
  • How will we support English learners who are not making progress toward proficiency?
  • How will we provide opportunities for home language development for all English learners and ensure that the home language is seen as an asset?
  • How will we address the needs of multilingual students and English learners enrolled in multilingual programs?
  • How will we ensure that English learners have access to the full curriculum, including ELD?
  • How will we provide professional learning opportunities and tools to teachers and paraprofessionals focused on meeting the needs of English learners during distance learning and the transition to reopening schools?

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Questions:   California Department of Education |
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, August 10, 2021
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